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If you’ve noticed small, black spots appearing across your photographs, then it’s probably time to clean your sensor. Like any invasive surgery, cleaning a camera sensor can be a dangerous operation. It requires careful preparation and execution, and if done improperly, can cause irreparable damage to your camera.

But for those who are brave enough to take their camera sensor’s life into their own hands, we have some words of advice before beginning the procedure.   

It’s not always obvious when your sensor needs to be cleaned, because depending on the camera settings, the dust spots might be too blurry to be really visible in some images. In order to check for sensor dust, take a wide shot of a light colored wall (white works best) at a closed aperture like f/16 or f/22. Zoom in on the LCD display or upload the images on a computer to get a better look. If you see small, black spots showing up in the same places across multiple different pictures, it’s time to clean your sensor.

Before you dive into your camera’s sensitive insides, you’ll need the proper equipment. Investing in quality sensor cleaning supplies will be worth it when you later save hundreds of dollars on professional cleaning services.

You’ll need:

  • Lint free cleaning swabs specifically designed for the size of your sensor
  • Camera sensor cleaning solution
  • Squeeze-bulb dust blower (Don’t use compressed air because it’s too powerful and could damage the sensor.)
  • Adjustable light to see inside of the camera
  • Sensor loupe

Find a place indoors where you’re safe from dust or dirt getting into your camera while you clean it. The first thing you’ll want to do is remove the lens and put a fully charged battery in the body. Open your menu settings and look for the manual sensor cleaning option. Once the manual cleaning mode is selected, the mirror will lock back revealing the sensor. The mirror will snap back in front of the sensor as soon as you switch the camera off.

Hold the camera upside down so that the LCD display is facing toward the ceiling and carefully blow air up into the camera with the squeeze-bulb dust blower. Be careful not to touch the sensor with the end of the dust blower.

Once you’ve squeezed a few bursts of air into the camera, replace the lens and take another couple of test shots. Check for dust spots. If the photos look clean, then the air blasts worked and you have yourself a fresh sensor! But if you still see dark spots across your photos, you can try wet cleaning the sensor.

To wet clean the sensor, remove the lens again and place the camera facing up on a flat surface. Select the manual sensor cleaning mode to flip the mirror back again. Use the dust blower to clean any dust or lint off of one of the sensor swabs, and drop two or three drops of solution onto the tip of the swab. Be careful not to get the swab too wet or you’ll end up leaving streak marks on the sensor.

Start in one corner of the sensor and very gently pull the swab across the width of the sensor in one smooth motion. When you hit the other side of the sensor, rotate the swab and pull it back again. Use the loupe to check your work as you go along.

If you think you’ve gotten all of the dust and dirt, put the lens back on and take another test shot. If there are still spots showing up in your photos, repeat the process using a clean swab. If you see streaks showing up in your photos, you probably used too much solution. Just go back and repeat the wet cleaning process using a new swab and less solution.

Manually cleaning your camera sensor can seem like a daunting task, but with the right supplies and a steady hand, you’ll be able to keep your sensor fresh.

Not convinced? You can come into Lumoid for sensor cleaning and full camera cleaning for $50. Contact us to schedule a time to come in!

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